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Don Wallace Sr., former Bee adman, dead at 69

Don Wallace Sr. loved to watch his son play sports.

When Don Wallace Jr. played football and basketball for Davis High School in the late 1970s, Mr. Wallace was always on the sidelines, cheering his son on.

Much later, when the younger Wallace led the Modesto High School basketball team as coach, Mr. Wallace was still in the stands, always ready to offer words of encouragement.

"It was great to look up in the stands and see him there," said Don Wallace Jr., now 45. "And he was always there."

Don Wallace Sr., who worked in The Modesto Bee's advertising department for more than 40 years before retiring in 2001, died Thursday morning in Hughson after a 1½-year battle with colon cancer. He was 69.

Mr. Wallace had several surgeries and stays in the hospital since his diagnosis. His family said after his most recent surgery, which revealed his cancer had spread well beyond treatment, his goal was to make it through the holidays.

"That was his favorite time to be with his grandkids (Courtney, 16, and Austin, 13)," said Wallace Jr., Modesto High's basketball coach and athletic director. "He fought hard to make it, waited two days after Christmas, and then just ... went."

After leaving the Navy, Mr. Wallace went to work in The Bee's advertising department in 1959. He spent the next four decades serving in different capacities within the department, including national advertising manager, advertising director and community affairs director.

"Everything just fell into place," Mr. Wallace told The Bee in 1995 about his career.

Debbie Kuykendall, Mr. Wallace's former colleague, said he had "a crusty shell, but a heart of gold."

"He supported you, backed you up in your endeavors and gave you the tools and opportunities to go with your ideas," Kuykendall said. "He was a great mentor."

Larry Dovichi, another former colleague, said Mr. Wallace was heavily involved in The Bee's workings and success.

"He knew every aspect of the paper," Dovichi said. "And he had a lot of contacts -- he knew the industry very well."

Scott Plom, who attended Davis with Wallace Jr., said Mr. Wallace was well-known in the community and a popular parent among his friends.

"He knew somebody everywhere," Plom said. "Age really didn't matter. Throughout high school, kids gravitated toward him. We wanted to go to his house and hang out. He and his wife were so nice and friendly, we felt at home."

Plom said Mr. Wallace loved to help kids and volunteered often.

"He would always chaperone, or make sure things got done for the benefit of the kids."

Wallace Jr. said his father attended all his grandchildren's events, just as he had attended his son's.

"He went to all their sporting events, plays, dances, everything," Wallace Jr. said. "He was a family man. That's how he'll be remembered."

Along with his son and two grandchildren, Mr. Wallace is survived by his wife, Terri, of Modesto; and his brother, Ed Wallace of Fairfield.

A public memorial for Mr. Wallace will be held at First Baptist Church of Modesto, 808 Needham St., Thursday at 3 p.m.

Bee staff writer Thomas Pardee can be reached at tpardee@modbee.com or 578-2318.

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